Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Mitt, the Fox, the Bear and Cinderella

Mitts is on my lap, I'm flicking loosely through the weekend papers, suddenly there's Megan Fox in full page glossy. With several bemused witnesses, Mitts throws his arms out, hands shaped into claws, and says "ARRRRR!!"

I'll say no more.

He's chatting a bit now, getting close to articulating clear words. Actually he uses all sorts of words, I'm just not sure what language they're in. Anderss, Zizzess, Daadahh, DATZ... (well, I know the last one is "cats") ... The proto-words are strung into phrases now, making sense in their own way just like his quite rhythmic table drumming and xylophone pounding.

Close to walking (holding himself up and moving along things) and close to talking, his frustration is palpable.

Random speech-related segue to Bear. Yesterday evening she's opened up a book of Fairy Tales, arrived at Cinderella, and promptly started telling her own story based on the pictures. It went something like this:

So they put the cat up on it and and yeah the cat was on there and.... these ones went over here and then there's the cat. (turns page)

A fairy there is a fairy and she BOUGHT A PUMPKIN there is a pumpkin and the fairy went, yeah! (turns page)

So YEAH there was a wedding and there LOOK they went and there was a WEDDING and, and THERE they are.

A girl is determined to read, I'm as proud of this as her efforts at coming up with a story (she's not familiar with Cinderella yet).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nobel Nothings- Could Obama become the next Kissinger?

While he made a bad situation worse by defending war during the Nobel ceremony, a nasty possibility is emerging from his decision to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan.

Among the allegations Christopher Hitchens levelled in his book 'The Trial of Henry Kissinger', which I admit I read several years ago, was a fairly convincing argument along the lines of 'Kissinger and Nixon took unilateral steps to flummox peace discussions late in the '60s and drew the war out, largely for political purposes'. Resulting in tens of thousands more people dying.

While it may not be clear for many years, what if Obama is essentially making his decision to continue in Afghanistan against a preponderance of the advice he has received, at least in relation to the likelihood of success there? What if, instead, this Nobel Prize winning Democratic President has made a decision to continue the war, increasing its intensity (and therefore the casualties that will inevitably follow on all sides), because he believes this is essential to his own domestic political survival?

Hugh White's recent article in The Monthly suggests, by implication, that this might be the case.

We might yawn at the idea of becoming upset at politicians acting cynically to get votes, but when it comes to waging war, this could open him up to allegations (as Hitchens tried to do to Kissinger) that he has committed a breach of the laws of war, maybe even a war crime.

Ironically, Bush and Blair may have had better justification for going in at the beginning (to shut down Taliban terrorist training camps, which we know existed and which were used to attack the US) than Obama has for 'surging' the troops at this point.

I hope this hypothesis is wrong, I still have reams of respect for the man, and I hope (against the odds it would seem) that he actually succeeds and brings peace there.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tuvalu is 'developing', China is a superpower

On Climate Change Tuvalu has a different view to China and India. That is because Tuvalu really care about climate change, for obvious reasons.

'Developing country' is a relative term, so that countries can claim such status if they have less wealth per person than the US or Western Europe. But in the case of China and India, countries that are part of the strategic environment affecting Australia, that choose to spent an astronomical amount of their wealth on military capability and that are nuclear armed, are effectively asking us to take a bigger hit on their behalf.

I think far more than $10 billion should be pledged by the 'wealthy countries' to support poor countries as part of this process, but allowing China to access that support, while racing to built its already ridiculously large military up to intimidate the neighbourhood, seems a bit foolish. The issue probably goes far beyond Copenhagen to a debate about where the world's developmental welfare should be directed.

In my view China does not care much about emissions. They simply aren't that sort of nation, they would see no major issue with replanting millions of people away from the coast. They are an old-style realist strategiser and they are basically looking at this process to advance their position relative to the other players, in particular the US.

Which seen entirely from their vantage point, is probably understandable. But if Australia ends up giving them handouts that would be a bit bizarre.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sharman Stone was soft on Asylum Seekers

One of those moments where you wonder where some people will stop. Sharman Stone, apparently, was trying to steer a middle course between moderates and "the Right" on this issue.


If she was the voice of moderation, I owe her an apology for streams of vitriol already hurled at my TV set. There I was thinking this woman must eat babies for breakfast, and in fact she was a moderate, possibly even being forced to run a harder line than her own conscience preferred?

Well, apologies to Sharman, I'm sure it's not biologically possible that you are some of the things I called you anyway. But what exactly do The Right want? The Right who are now in the ascendency, apparently responsible for dumping Sharman from her post. What do they want to do to refugees that she wasn't already advocating?

Do they want to kill them? I'm being serious, there's not much left. Do they want us to finally, once and for all, dump the Convention itself and its core rule of non refoulement? Just send people back to war zones, overt oppression, torture, genocide, whatevs?

Go back to picking out the white ones?

Or just burn the boats and shoot them in the water? I mean, Sharman was basically banging on about how Rudd's policy, which still uses offshore detention, is too soft. If she was a pinko by the standards of something called "the Right" that's apparently even further to the right, what exactly do they want?

I can't wait to find out. Race and security politics, the high water mark of Australian civilisation.

Oh Don't Go There

I must admit I was a bit shirty on the phone to my mum last night, putting in the odd dig at my old man that probably could have been left on the shelf. Occasion for the call- to suggest she suggests he calls his old school mate, who he's also been in the process of brushing off and rejecting, because his old school mate is about to die from cancer.

Possibly it wouldn't hurt you to let him chat about what's on TV for ten minutes, Pa?

Anyway, I tell her happily about where Mitts is at: pulling himself up on things, standing (in fact yesterday he started 'stepping' along the edge of the couch while standing, an exciting milestone!), blabbing lots of semi-articulated words like "da da dgggst" and "anderzz" and "itstst", yanking at books, and bashing enthusiastically on the xylophone.

"Ooh dear" she says, unenthusiastically. Then, without directly relating it to her comment, she starts to babble on about how you can start to tell if kids are going to 'be musical' at this age.

Context- Mitts is 11 months old.

She continues. At this age apparently I was waving my arms around like a conductor to my favourite music, Gilbert and Sullivan (I'd like to point out my tastes did evolve, thankfully). Mitts has actually done the same to Mussorgsky but I leave this out, because this already ridiculous piece of historical fluffery takes an ill-advised turn.

"I knew you would be musical then", she slaps in for effect.

... (pause as my blood pressure goes up a few dozen kilopascals)

"Shame that was discouraged" I understate.

"OH but we BOUGHT YOU saxophones and lessons and things" she jumps back, the usual themes. I was bought something. What more could a kid ask for?

"Yes but you-know-who then actively discouraged me" I reply, still holding back about 5 cannons of rising anger.

"Well you've got to get over it sometime" she retorts, again a bit too quickly.

"No. I. DON'T".

She shifts topics and moves away, wisely. I fume long after we finish.

Yes I got some lessons when I was very young, and a guitar, and much later was able to convince them to switch from a small car to a sax for my 21st present. I don't deny this was financially fortunate. But it counted for sweet F.A. because when this became my overwhelming passion, something I was practising several hours of every day, something I was actually getting very good at, my father attacked this love of mine with a venom I still can't fully make sense of, as part of generally attacking everything about me that he didn't identify with.

In fact in a big worked-up rant about how music was a waste of time and I had no talent anyway, he said he would support me studying "anything EXCEPT music".

This in the context of whining on all his life about how his father didn't support him going to Uni, and how I was so lucky because I'd be given all the support I needed. As it happened there weren't any relevant courses available within 1000 miles of where I lived, and the only courses I was aware of charged fees, so just as when he was a boy, in this particular context, a complete lack of support did make a difference (I actually applied for the Army so I could afford to send myself to music school, a story for another day).

Coupled with constant put-downs about how if I had any talent it would be more obvious, I'd go nowhere, be a loser and so on, this kinda fell short of encouragement.

My mum didn't actively participate, but she didn't do much to contradict this message either, until I was in my mid 20s. I remember vividly the day she said something that sounded vaguely encouraging, remember being touched by it, while reflecting on how it was an offer of hay to the horse that had already bolted. I'd ground myself up with frustration and self doubt for about 4 years when music was all I wanted to do. The dreams had blurred, the time mostly passed.

So it wasn't her fault, but in her constant babble about how when I was a little bub I did this and that before I was the age dot, I don't need her to make some claim on me being a child prodigy, or that being something she spotted and encouraged. Leave it alone, for fcuk's sake.

And here's a message to people who have at some point colossally screwed up a relationship: moving on is possible, but don't ever, ever tell us to get over it. That's a way of saying you don't really think you did anything wrong. And that's just a way of inviting a whole pile of visceral anger to leap out of the place it's been buried and fly down your throat.

I'll finish on a lighter reflection, on the merits of the internet. At the time of the arguments above I was living in Darwin, and my knowledge of the courses available to me was limited by what was on offer, or in the library of, the local Uni-Tafe. I did not know, and had no immediate way of knowing, that there were courses at places like Box Hill College that taught exactly what I wanted to learn.

It is sometimes hard to imagine that just a few years ago that sort of functional information simply wasn't available. If you didn't know something was out there, or where to start looking, then that was that. All I knew about was the Conservatorium in Sydney, and a whole bunch of fantastic music schools in the US that I could attend if I saved about a year's salary....